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After 20 years of silence, injured woman speaks



Published: Mon, February 14, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) -- For 20 years, Sarah Scantlin has been mostly oblivious to the world around her -- the victim of a drunken driver who struck her down as she walked to her car. Today, after a remarkable recovery, she can talk again.

Scantlin's father knows she will never fully recover, but her newfound ability to speak and her returning memories have given him his daughter back. For years, she could only blink her eyes -- one blink for "no," two blinks for "yes" -- to respond to questions that no one knew for sure she understood.

"I am astonished how primal communication is. It is a key element of humanity," Jim Scantlin said, blinking back tears.

Sarah Scantlin was an 18-year-old college freshman Sept. 22, 1984, when she was hit by a drunken driver as she walked to her car after celebrating with friends at a teen club. That week, she had been hired at an upscale clothing store and won a spot on the drill team at Hutchinson Community College.

After two decades of silence, she began talking last month. Doctors are not sure why. On Saturday, Scantlin's parents hosted an open house at her nursing home to introduce her to friends, family members and reporters.

Conversation

A week ago, her parents got a call from Jennifer Trammell, a licensed nurse at the Golden Plains Health Care Center. She asked Betsy Scantlin if she was sitting down, told her someone wanted to talk to her and switched the phone to speaker mode:

"Hi, Mom."

"Sarah, is that you?" her mother asked.

"Yes," came the throaty reply.

"How are you doing?"

"Fine."

"Do you need anything," her mother asked her later.

"More makeup."

"Did she just say more makeup?" the mother asked the nurse.

Scantlin started talking in mid-January but asked staff members not to tell her parents until Valentine's Day to surprise them.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.




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